Not Everyone Celebrating As Habijax Marks Milestone

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Habijax, a Jacksonville organization that builds houses for people in need, recently broke ground on a home that will mark a milestone.

The organization is building its 1,500th new home. The home is located in the 5600 block of Brooklyn Road in Northwest Jacksonville.

Mayor John Peyton and Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver were on hand Thursday for the ceremony, and so were Habitat for Humanity dignitaries from around the world.

"We celebrate with our homeowners. We have dedications for all of them, but this is a milestone -- 1,500 in 19 years. It's the most amount of homes built for any Habitat affiliate in the United States," said Habijax president and CEO Mary Kay O'Rourke.

However, not everybody was celebrating the historic event. Some Habijax homeowners said their dreams have been dashed because they said their homes have begun to fall apart.

Seven years ago, several American dreams of home ownership became a reality when Habijax built 100 homes in Northwest Jacksonville's Fairway Oaks neighborhood in just 17 days.

Some of the residents living in the homes said their houses are falling apart and making them ill.

"The first moment was like, 'Lord, thank you. I finally have a home that I can afford,'" said Kenneth Bowman, who lives in a Fairway Oaks Habijax home.

In 2000, when his home was built as a part of Habijax's Blitz Build Project he couldn't believe his good fortune.

Since the homes were built, some of the once-thankful homeowners have had some complaints.

Bowman said every doorframe in the home is coming apart, mildew has caused extensive floor damage and holes in the walls have popped up for no reason.

"They threw the houses up really fast. The houses are a blessing for us to be here, but then we wonder if it really is a blessing," Bowman said.

O'Rourke said she did not think building 100 homes in 17 days was moving too fast.

"We work really closely with the city and building inspectors," O'Rourke said. "There were no issues with the homes at all. They were all built to code, and they were all safe and there were no structural issues."

"Until we have some science behind the claims, I think it's too early to judge," Peyton said.

Bowman said the problems with the Habijax homes leave him with a feeling of mistrust.

"Whether to really trust them. Are they really take of it or we're just going to stay here on top of this dumpsite or what?" Bowman said.

Channel 4's Emily Pantelides reported the Habijax homes were built on a former landfill and some residents said it was making them sick and preventing their grass from growing.

Habijax confirmed the homes were built on a former landfill but said everything was checked out and is safe.

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